Interfaith leaders and city officials gathered in Brooklyn’s “Little Pakistan” yesterday to decry a flier promoting April 3rd as “Punish a Muslim Day.” With City Council member Jumaane Williams calling the document “one of the most dangerous pieces of paper I’ve seen in a very long time,” Borough president Eric L. Adams pledged to join members of the NYPD on an information offensive and special patrol on Tuesday.
The “campaign” began as a flier mailed around London last month, a digital copy of which made its way to Muslim populations in America through social media. The flier (see below) proposes a point system for participants who commit the most heinous violence, offering the vague promise of “rewards” for hateful acts ranging from “Pull the head-scarf off a Muslim ‘Woman'” and “Butcher a Muslim using gun, knife, vehicle or otherwise” to “Nuke Mecca.” In response, the United Kingdom has initiated police investigations and are placing cities on alert for domestic terrorism against Muslim communities.
Williams, who represents Brooklyn’s 45th district, worried that the flier would get “directly to the hearts and mind and spirit of people who want to do evil and pretend that it’s just a game.”
The arrival of the campaign is timed not only not only to the broad climate of anti-Muslim sentiment in the US and UK, but also to this year’s intersection of Passover and Easter, which is being celebrated as an auspicious occasion to promote religious harmony.
To all my Muslim sisters and brothers, I refuse live in fear! I know our allies got our backs! I know on April 3rd they will step up their game as upstanders to potential Muslim haters! PUNISH A MUSLIM DAY – UPDATED INFO by the @NYPDnews pic.twitter.com/08JmKaiMq4
— Dr.Debbie Almontaser (@DebbiAlmontaser) March 30, 2018
All in all, a dozen individuals took to the lectern at the Pakistani American Youth Society, near Ditmas Park, to outline the city’s serious response, share their varied perspectives with persecution, and amplify each others’ calls to remain strong through Tuesday’s looming threat, however it may appear.
Lieutenant Adeel Rana, one of the conference’s organizers, announced that in the face of these transparent and disturbing threats, the NYPD’s Muslim Officers Society has enlisted its members and community leaders throughout the city for an interfaith education campaign. As president of the society, he will be going to mosques, small businesses and other “majority Muslim-circulating areas” to spread knowledge of protective, know-your-rights programs and leading interfaith discussions on Islam.
As a former NYPD chief, borough president Adams spoke of the discrimination he saw Muslim members of his department endure. “Everyone is saying that it’s one individual, one sick mind,” he said of the flier. “But a sick mind creates an atmosphere for other sick people to embrace this sick mind.”
I’m proud to stand with the @NYPDMuslim Officers Society and community leaders at @PAYouthSociety in #DitmasPark to send a clear message: We will stand strong against anyone attempting to make #PunishAMuslimDay a reality. I will help patrol tomorrow as we look out for each other. pic.twitter.com/Wz3MNGUGUR
— Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) April 2, 2018
Like Adams, many of the speakers reminded the audience that the flier is only an especially vile resurfacing of the sustained intimidation the community has felt for decades.
Dr. Debbie Almontaser, president of the Muslim Community Network called upon allies to counter the campaign by declaring tomorrow a National Day of Hijab and a National Day of Kufi. “I want to see all of my allies tomorrow coming out with a scarf, whether putting it on their head, or putting it around their necks, to show solidarity that we refuse to allow hate to seep into our community,” she said.
Even with the rallying cries to remain calm and confident, Almontaser nevertheless prescribed to young Muslim women — many of whom she said reached out to her in fear after hearing word of the campaign — a heightened, defensive vigilance tomorrow: walking through the street without headphones, staying close to crowds and checking their cars for devices. Her remarks underscored an awareness that even with community support, the threats posed in the flier signify a persistent and cruel tactic against minorities.
“It is sad in a way that I have to tell my wife and our two newborn children, ‘Don’t go outside tomorrow, because I don’t want someone to get 50 points for throwing acid in your face’,” said Mohamad Bahi of the non-profit Muslims Giving Back.